Category Archives: Dinners

Kick the Can! Homemade Tomato Soup From Scratch

I learned recently, after reading this popular article, ¬†that canned tomato products are really, really bad. Like, enough for me to boycott anything with tomatoes that is not in glass. BPA leaching out into my family’s food? Ugh. No. Here’s a great article talking about why it’s bad and what else we can do.

So in my effort to do away with this evil in our lives, I have to find a boxed or glass-jarred equivalent to the Campbell’s soup my family loves so much. No luck yet. But I looked at all the tomatoes in my garden and on my counter, and I had an idea. I went in search of a recipe to try. I thought I would have to get all witches cauldron on it to make it taste like Campbell’s. As soon as I smelled the first step of this recipe cooking, I knew I already had a winner. So here you are, the freshest, BPA-free, Campbell’s soup fake-out that had my family begging for seconds. The key to that memorable tomato soup flavor? Cloves!

123_0498

I chopped up my tomatoes, between 2-3 cups worth, and added some homemade chicken stock. A friend suggested using bone broth for added nutritional benefits, which I think is a spectacular idea. Next time I will plan ahead and use bone broth. I was so thrown off by the call for cloves that I almost didn’t put them in. I’m glad I did!

Once they had simmered for a while, I used my stick blender to help things along. I then ladled it into my sieve and used the back of the ladle to push everything but the seeds and skins through.

123_0500

I put the seeds and skins back into my garden. Maybe we’ll get volunteer tomatoes. ūüôā

This beautiful tomato juice was what I got. But there’s another important step. Roux.

123_0502

You’ll make a light brown roux of butter and flour, 2 tablespoons of each. I almost let mine go too far while I was taking pictures. Plus I had a screeching toddler on my leg. This is a bit forgiving though. Mine turned out delicious nonetheless.

123_0504

Slowly add the tomato-ey liquid, making sure everything is smooth and creamy before adding more. It’s so interesting to me how the roux seizes up and then smooths back out again. Cooking is cool.

123_0505

When I was all done, I tasted it and added salt and sugar until it tasted right. Mine needed more sugar than the recipe called for. I’m sure it will be different for every batch and for every cook. We spooned in a dollop of sour cream, added some fresh basil from the garden, a sprinkle of pepper (for the adults), and dipped gooey grilled cheese into our soup.

Amazing.

123_0509

I followed the recipe I found exactly, aside from the amount of sugar at the end. You can find it at this link.

Throw out those disgusting cans. Try this delicious soup and you’ll give your family the chemical-free dinner they deserve! Added plus: this freezes well (according to my bone broth offering friend, thanks V!) so it’s just as easy to pull out and heat up as a can of soup.

For the love of food…
~Veronica

Advertisements

My Journey to Health – Day 2

This day was a really great day! I felt good, we exercised in the morning, and my headache was gone. I’m really starting to feel the effects of this healthy eating and healthy lifestyle.

My breakfast this morning was scrambled eggs with a little bit of Parmesan cheese, half a tomato, and a little bit of fresh basil from my garden. It’s really fulfilling to go out into your yard, pull something out of the ground, put it over your food, and eat it. How satisfying! Not to mention tasty.

My Journey to Health - Day 2

My first snack was one cup of red grapes. How much easier can that get?!

My Journey to Health - Day 2
Then, lunch. Oh, beautiful lunch! The salad was so delicious. I had cooked the ground turkey the day before, and it was ready and waiting to be put into this beautiful salad. Super healthy, packed full of flavor, and really delicious.

My Journey to Health - Day 2
My second snack was a hard boiled egg cut open with a splash of balsamic vinegar. The vinegar gave it a needed kick that made me feel like I was eating something more than an egg.

My Journey to Health - Day 2
Dinner was chicken in foil with red skinned potatoes, peppers, onions, and some herbs. I think this is my favorite meal so far. It was easy, well-rounded, and very good.

My Journey to Health - Day 2

And there you have it, Day 2… done. In the morning I exercised to T25 with my husband. I am so proud of his effort to do this with me. It’s way easier with somebody going along with you and helping you stick to it. And he has been a champ with lots of unhealthy temptations out there.

Looking forward to the days ahead…

~Veronica

My Journey To Health – Day 1

A friend of mine who is a Beachbody coach (visit her page here!), invited me to join a challenge that she was doing. It started yesterday. It’s a five day challenge to eat clean every day. 1200 to 1300 cal per day, three meals, two snacks. No processed foods, no pop, and very little sugar, exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Yesterday I started my journey towards health. My reasons for wanting to get healthy are my children. I want to be around for them for a long time. I have also found out recently that I have a condition called joint hypermobility syndrome or JHS. With that comes pain in my joints because they easily rotate past normal range of movement, and that causes inflammation and sometimes scar tissue. In the past, exercising has been tough for me because I get injured easily and then take weeks to heal. I also suffer from anxiety and insomnia that I believe is partly due to JHS, and fibromyalgia goes along with it. I often feel very fatigued, and that’s frustrating. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that I become healthy, not just for me but for my family. I’m going to take you guys along with me on this journey as I learn how to eat healthily and exercise every day.

Yesterday was my first day, and I suffered a terrible headache due to my body having withdrawals from caffeine and possibly sugar. For my exercise I rode my bike for about 20 minutes (not very long due to headache). And this is what I had to eat…

This was the first omelette I’ve ever made! It’s a broccoli and feta cheese omelette. It was really tasty, but next time I would put some tomatoes in it ’cause it was also a little dry. I paired it with a side of half a piece of Ezekiel bread.

My Journey To Health - Day 1 :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Then for my morning snack I had some yogurt with a little bit of honey. The recipe called for grapefruit peel, but I’m not a fan of peel unless they are organic, and I didn’t have any organic citrus peels. So I left those out and squeezed a little bit of lemon into it, and it was delicious!

My Journey To Health - Day 1 :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Lunch was a spinach and chicken salad. I boiled the chicken in water with curry powder for little extra boost of flavor. I had cooked the chicken ahead of time because I knew it would be hard for me, as a mom of two, to have the time to cook chicken for lunch. So it was already in the refrigerator when it was time for lunch. Super easy!

My Journey To Health - Day 1 :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Then, the hardest part was waiting for this PM snack. These turkey rollup’s are delicious! I had two. You just take two slices of turkey lunch meat, and spread a soft cheese on it, I used Laughing Cow cream cheese. The recipe also called for avocado slices, but mine aren’t ripe! A nice goat cheese would be really great on this.

My Journey To Health - Day 1 :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

My headache was killing me by dinner time. I had been drinking lots of water hoping that I could steer it off. But that didn’t really work because it was from a lack of caffeine and a lack of sleep. But I did manage to make dinner; these fish tacos were really, really good. I used my Mahi-Mahi and replaced the avocado with sour cream. Darn unripe avocados! These have a tasty, spicy cabbage slaw to bulk them up. They were really filling though, and super tasty!

My Journey To Health - Day 1 :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

So with all my cooking and eating done, I went to sleep early to try to get rid of my headache. Thankfully today it’s gone. I’ve already done my workout today, and made breakfast, two snacks, and lunch to send with my hubby to work! I got my T25 in the mail yesterday, and did my first workout today, and it was AWESOME. I’ll tell y’all about today’s success in my post tomorrow! Be healthy!

~Veronica

Cheese Burger Pockets

SAM_1590Author: Cassie Stevens

Cheese burgers baked in the bun! Oh yes I did!! I seen a similar post about this on Pintrest the other day while I was browsing, so of course, I had to try it out.

I started with my basic white bread recipe. Then cut one of the halves into eighths, because I had four hamburgers.

SAM_1575Four tops and four bottoms.  I then added the meat and cheese to one side and sealed the dough rounds together.

SAM_1579The next time I do this I am going to try another cheese like mozzarella, and use a little more.  I like a cheesy burger.

SAM_1582Once I sealed it up, I used an egg wash to cover the top of the buns.  I then let them rise while the oven was heating up. So, just a few minutes.  Here is all four of them before the egg wash:

SAM_1586I baked them until they were a beautiful golden brown on top.¬† I think they were very good for the first time making them. They tasted great. I seasoned the burgers with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. I accompanied these cheese burger pockets with mashed potatoes and baked beans. YUM!!!!! Try it out tell me what you think….~ C

 

Dilly Mahi Mahi, Zucchini, and Roasted Balsamic Cauliflower

Dilly Mahi Mahi, Zucchini, and Roasted Balsamic Cauliflower :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Dill… you either love it or you hate it. I used to hate it.¬†So I resolved to try some new dishes and use this interesting little herb. After all, I did plant some in my garden this year. ¬†When the delicate little sprouts started popping through the ground, I wondered what I would do with them. Here’s my first recipe using my fresh dill. Now that I’ve made this, I know it will feature a lot in my dishes. Dill is yummy!

Dilly Mahi Mahi, Zucchini, and Roasted Balsamic Cauliflower :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

I sprayed heavy duty tin foil with olive oil in my Misto, laid down some beautiful Mahi Mahi – any fish would do – that I bought at Sam’s Club (I so wish we had a Costco!), and then brainstormed.

Dilly Mahi Mahi, Zucchini, and Roasted Balsamic Cauliflower :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Here’s what I added to the fish:

  • Lemon juice and soy sauce (around the bottom and sides – this takes away a bit of the fishy taste in frozen fish.)
  • Mayonnaise (spread on top of the fish)
  • Dill – one good handful (sprinkled on top)
  • 2 medium zucchini

Then, I pulled the sides up and folded it into a packet, sealing everything inside. Make sure you seal it well so that the steam can’t escape. If not, you will be just baking, not steaming. This keeps in a lot of the moisture. Pop it in the oven on 400 degrees F. I did mine along with this delicious roasted ¬†balsamic cauliflower. But put it in at the end; the fish only takes 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness. Mine was a pretty thick piece, and took about 20 minutes.

Dilly Mahi Mahi, Zucchini, and Roasted Balsamic Cauliflower :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Here’s how I made the cauliflower:

  • Cut/tear cauliflower into bite-size pieces.
  • Toss in a little EVOO.
  • Lay out on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment. (Easy clean up!)
  • Sprinkle with herbs of choice (I use rosemary) and very lightly salt. I use Celtic Sea Salt for flavoring, and table salt for baking – don’t forget, we still need some iodine in our diets; sea salts are iodine-free.
  • Sprinkle with a little balsamic vinegar.
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes, turning once or twice.

Dilly Mahi Mahi, Zucchini, and Roasted Balsamic Cauliflower :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

TaDaaa! You have a heart-healthy, deliciously moist, and flaky fish dish that your whole family will love. My 4- and 1-year-old loved it and chowed down.

Enjoy!

~Veronica

Chicken and Handmade Noodles

chnAuthor: Cassie Stevens

One of my favorite dishes my mother makes for Thanksgiving is her turkey and homemade noodles. OMG! They are so good, she makes them the day before and lets them dry out overnight. Although I have tried many times, I don’t make them the same as my mama.¬† Well, this is a similar recipe to hers.¬† My chicken and noodles has veggies in it unlike my mama’s, but I think it adds a lot of flavor to the stock.

I start by making the dough for the noodles. It’s really very easy, all you need is

2 cups of flour

1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

2 egg yolks and one whole egg beaten

1 tsp olive oil

Prep: In a large bowl stir together the flour and salt, then make a well in the center.  In another small bowl mix egg yolks, whole egg, water, and olive oil.  Add egg mixture to flour. Mix well. add a tsp of water at a time if too dry. On a floured surface roll out dough and knead until smooth and elastic. (8 to 10 minutes). Cover and let dough rest for ten to fifteen minutes.  Cut dough in half and roll out as thin as you want your noodles. Dust with flour on each side so the dough does not stick to the counter and cut with a knife, pizza cutter, or the nifty little roller cutter that I found at a thrift store never opened for fifty cents.

chn2I love that thing. I’m glad I picked it up. It also has another roller blade that tenderizes meat. I use it for pastas only. I tenderize my meat other ways.

chn3So after all your pasta is cut, it’s time to set it aside to dry.¬† I just place it on a parchment lined baking sheet to air dry. I turned it after an hour to help it dry out more evenly.

chn4I let mine dry for about two hours. It was dry enough by that time. As soon as it was dry I started the stock. I added a Tbsp of minced garlic and enough olive oil to cover a stock pot. Then I added the veggies:

chn5About three carrots, half an onion, and two stalks of celery. Dice them all up and sweat them out in the stock pot. I also, added two Tbsp butter, cause I can never cook without it. I love butter, real butter!¬† Once your veggies are sweatin’ add 3 cups water and simmer.

Next in a cast iron skillet or whatever pan you have (I love my cast iron skillet) brown your chicken. I used 3 boneless breasts and I seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper and a little bit of minced garlic in the bottom of the pan. Once browned on each side I set aside to rest for a few minutes. Then cut into small cubes and put inside stockpot to finish cooking for about ten to fifteen minutes.

chn7Drain the liquid from the stock pot into the skillet and bring to a boil, then add your noodles. Cook for about three minutes. Noodles will be done. Cook a little longer for thicker noodles.

chn6Once the noodles are done, add them to your stockpot. Before you add more water, make a slurry to thicken to a gravy.

chn8Add 1 Tbsp cornstarch and 1 Tbsp flour and mix well in a measuring cup with just enough water to dissolve. Add to stock pot, then add more water to desired consistency. Let simmer for a few minutes and it will thicken up to a gravy consistency.

chn9

Looks yummy right? Time to eat! Pair it with your favorite dinner rolls and you have a great dinner your family will be talking about for a while!

chn10I hope you enjoy as much as we all did! Happy cooking!

Spicy Shrimp and Butter Grits ~ Southern Comfort Food

sg6Author: Cassie Stevens

I am a southern girl, and I eat like it too.  Cornbread, beans, grits, mashed taters, all kinds of gravies, butter, BBQ, etc.  Southern comfort foods, and this is one of them.  Shrimp and grits! YUM! better yet, spicy shrimp and grits! YUM! YUM!

Shrimp and grits started out as a seasonal fisherman‚Äôs dish of shrimp cooked in bacon grease served over creamy grits in the south where they were also known as ‚Äúbreakfast shrimp.‚ÄĚ The popular cuisine of corn grain provides a new twist in a variety of ways that it can be made. This has caused chefs to try to create new variations of the basic shrimp and grits recipe.sg2

You may be wondering what grits are made of. Well grits, formerly ‚Äúhominy,‚ÄĚ is ground corn that has been mashed. This dish was invented by the Native Americans from the Carolina region. Grits were used as one of the ways for Native Americans and white people to communicate in the latter part of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century before people learned how to speak the same language. An important event happened in 1584, when Native Americans gave some of their grits to Sir Walter Raleigh, and the people who came to live in Jamestown, Virginia a few years later.sg3

The colonists were learning about maize (corn) from the Native Americans, who were well versed in that area. Multiple items quickly became basic food sources for the settlers, including corn and grits. These items had been a normal part of the Native American diet for a long time.sg1

Centuries later, in 1976, grits were  declared as the official state food of South Carolina and are well known for their significant contribution to the culture and economy of South Carolina, and the power of the people who live there. The region stretching from the Carolinas to Louisiana is now called America’s Grits Belt.sg4

For many people in this region, a day without grits is like a day without sunshine. They hate and have no respect for prepackaged instant grits or quick grits. For them, the only way to eat real grits is to cook them the old fashioned way slowly with stone ground grits. However, there are a number of ways to spice up the meal like adding shrimp.

For many decades, shrimp and grits were a mainstay of the diet of the people who lived in and around Charleston, South Carolina.

sg5

I live in Tennessee, not far from the origin of shrimp and grits. I love it! Well, in this recipe I used, lemon juice, butter, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, parsley, garlic, and onion powder. Spicy!

I cooked my grits then added a little butter, salt, and cream to my taste. Viola! the best ever spicy southern shrimp and grits. Gotta love it! Good southern comfort food! Enjoy! ~ C

(Edit)

10 to 15 cooked shrimp (depending on size)

Juice from half a lemon

1 tbsp salted butter

1 dash cayenne pepper (or to your heat preference)

1 three finger pinch dried parsley

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

In sauce pan combine all ingredients until heated through. Serve over cooked grits.